tv Dateline NBC NBC April 8, 2011 9:00pm-11:00pm EDT
it happened friday the 13th. >> oh, no. >> a teenager named amber vanished on her way to school. >> very concerning to us. >> she's not just hiding from me. someone has her. >> then it happened again. >> please just help us bring her home. she needs to come home. >> another teenager on a sunny afternoon vanished, too. >> she's my angel forever. >> one angel, now two, gone. where were they? and was there a link? >> it was more of a hope that they were somehow connected. >> tonight -- the gripping inside story of a disturbing double mystery. >> maybe she's tied up somewhere. maybe she's being held captive. >> who could solve it? >> there's a lot of desperation.
>> and who was behind it? >> what kind of creature would do this? >> danger was lurking. >> i was shocked. that warning was not listened to. >> and a mother was bracing for a dramatic moment eye to eye with evil. >> what did you ask? >> two families, two mysteries, two journeys for justice. >> we just have to find her. >> "in broad daylight." good evening. welcome to "dateline." i'm ann curry. it was a heartbreaking story, the story of two teenage girls who disappeared in broad daylight. as the days stretched on, their families were haunted not knowing what had happened to their daughters. and what they would learn raised even more questions. here's keith morrison. >> reporter: on the evening of february 12, 2009, in a hillside house north of san diego, california, the
negotiation was finally complete. the girl had won. >> i made her write a one-page letter to me, and she made it two pages, repeated herself multiple times to make it longer. i'm like, okay. >> she pestered her mother carrie and her mother's boyfriend at the time, dave. >> all kids have their own things that they're into. amber loved animals. >> she had been campaigning for it during her regular and frequent visits with her father mo. >> she probably had it named probably a month before she even got it. >> what was she going to call it? >> nanette. it was a french name. >> which made sense to her, since her surname was very french, amber dubois. it was to be her lucky day.
the day he she walked those few familiar blocks from her home in escondido, clutching her mother's $200, and receive in exchange, a lamb of all things. she was buying it as part of her high school future farmers program. tonight, as she drifted off to sleep for the last time, every good thing still seemed possible. >> come home, please. >> none of it had happened then. of of of >> there's not a single day that goes by that i don't break down and cry for hours. >> the extent of the evil hadn't occurred to the sheriff yet. >> all of a sudden there's a safe zone that's been taken away from you. >> the d.a. never imagined. she'd say -- >> this case rocked san diego county. >> but this was before all that. and amber was just going about the business of being 14 and slightly quirky. >> amber was a free-spirited kid. she loved reading and writing,
and she didn't like the normal things, you know, that kids like. >> she had her own taste. her own pace. she liked to take her time. c'mon, amber, c'mon, she's looking at the flowers, the bugs, whatever. she was never in a hurry, ever. she wanted to see the world how she wanted to see it. and she did. >> no interest in boys yet. no girly things either. >> we would have to order her clothes online because she hated shopping. >> didn't want to go shopping? >> god, no. that would be torture for her to go to the mall. >> what did other girls think about her? they're so cliquish at that age. >> oh, she had her clique. it was a very, very small clique. one small group of very close friends that were all goofy nerds like her basically. they're all a bunch of bookworms. >> she read the whole harry potter series in two weeks. >> c'mon! >> all of them.
>> she would get a 300-page novel. i would have to go in her room multiple times, because she was under the blanket reading. >> she probably read more books in a year than i read in my whole life. p amber, say hi! >> she was just beginning high school. she wanted graduate early and vowed never to minute one day of class. >> i'm like, are you sure? you never want to miss school? what's wrong with you? i would do anything to miss school. she wanted perfect attendance. >> she wanted to study animals in depth. >> she had kept guinea pigs, fish and birds and dogs and rats. she began riding lessons at 3. by 9, she owned a horse. so when the school offered future farmers of america, of course she joined. >> they have a huge, huge farm on the campus, and they allow students to purchase and raise farm animals. and, thus, the lamb and the
happy walk to school on friday, february 13th. >> i remember driving to work laughing, going, i know i'm going to have to take care of that lamb. >> the weather was drizzly that winter day, mid-50s. it was late in the afternoon when dave noticed, well, nothing. an absence. >> i was at the house and went, wait a minute, why isn't amber here? because her mom was still at work. i looked at my watch and thought, she should have been here an hour ago. i called her mom. >> i wondered where she was at. i got on her cell phone and said, call me. >> he drove to the school. >> maybe she just lost track of time. >> but then found one of her teachers and asked if he had seen amber. >> mr. rayburn said, she didn't show up today. i was very surprised she wasn't here. this was her last day to pay for her lamb. i said, no, no, no, what are you talking about? i gave her a check before i left the house this morning. that's when sirens went off.
i called carrie and told her mr. rayburn said she wasn't there. carrie at that point, you know, kind of went into panic mode. >> he says amber never made it, and i knew right then something -- someone had her. i knew. i was, like, oh, my god, something terrible has happened. coming up -- where was amber? police and the nation joined the search, and a new lead sends a mother on a dangerous mission across the border. >> we advised her not to go because there would be great reason for them to kidnapped her and hold her.
amber dubois, 14 years old, was a young woman of established habits. >> she got out of school at 2:45. i would give her until 3:30 to be home so she could hang out with her friends. >> dependenceable was amber >> dependable was amber, predictable even. >> she was always home by 3:30, always called. >> then came friday the 13, 2009. when she wasn't home. the day her mother carrie mcgonigle discovered she didn't go to school. she called her ex-husband, amber's father mo. >> what did her voice sound like?
>> complete panic. >> i started looking around the school, dumpster, anything, to look for a backpack. >> what could they do? printed flyers. called her friends. >> we started going door to door. >> as did the police. >> they were out with a black-and-white picture, a faxed picture. i handed them a color flier and said, this is a better picture of amber. >> that's who she is. >> escondido police combed the neighborhood, the school, the creek behind it, worked all night, said captain bob benton. >> it's now saturday morning, still no sign of amber. very concerning to us. >> and then later that day, a break. somebody had seen her near the school. >> describing how she had a hoodie on, that it was drizzly. he described her as walking hurriedly so he thought she was late to school. >> then someone else had seen amber, near this fire hydrant, with a boy. >> basically i said, there's amber, made notice she was there.
>> the boy was described as tall, about six to eight inches taller than amber, doughy looking, and dark complected. >> who was that boy? her cell was active somewhere nearby. >> somebody had tried to access voicemail. it hit on the same cell phone tower that covers both amber's home and the school. >> so police sent out what amounted to a reverse 911 call. >> this is an important message from the escondido police department regarding a missing juvenile at risk. the missing juvenile is amber leann dubois. >> we send it out to residents all around. we did it for a several mile
radius. >> brown hair, blue eyes, last seen wearing dark clothing. if you've seen her or know her, please call us. >> as the news spread, people did call. a classmate reported seeing her saturday the 14th, early evening, but local surveillance cameras picked up nothing. then sunday the 15th, the second classmate said he saw her walking with a boy. >> the sighting on sunday night was deemed to be as reliable as could be. >> each sighting sent hopes soaring. but not in carrie because she knew amber was not a runner. >> i'm like, it wasn't her. i'm telling you right now it wasn't her. she would not be this close to home and not come home. >> day and night the search went on. the fbi joined in. volunteers did, too. searching outbuildings, vacant sheds. >> we don't know what's going on here, but we do check that out as a matter of course. >> search and rescue teams scoured miles of brush-soaked ravines, hidden places around rocky hills. >> also in this area, what we found out is a place that a lot of kids go to party. it's called the caves. it consists of a real rocky
area, a mountainous area. >> but no sign of amber. >> this has been going on now for several days, so as it goes on, we get more worried. >> what was it like for the two of you as those days kept going by and there was no word, nothing? >> life stops. nothing matters anymore. >> we don't sleep. we don't eat. >> you go into great depression some days and the other days you can see some kind of light. >> the police sent up a task force, assigned search teams. volunteers came out, hundreds of them. >> i have three daughters myself. i just cannot imagine what those parents are going through. p. >> i look around and i see a bunch of flickers of hope, is what i'm seeing. >> someone has her. she's not just hiding from me or hiding from the house. someone has her. >> it kept us up at nights, going over in our heads over and over of what happened that morning in front of the school. >> if amber was alive -- and
that was a big if -- where could she be? >> if she left, she left with somebody she knew. so who was that person? >> if you know where amber dubois is tonight -- >> they told the amber story on "america's most wanted." she was on the cover of "people." and what happened? suddenly sightings coast to coast, hundreds of them. >> there was one girl who looked so much like amber that she had to keep carrying her i.d. on her because law enforcement stopped her so many times. i'm not amber. she had to show the i.d., i'm not amber. captain benton's team ran down every tip in every state, 1200 of them, 500 interviews, even though -- >> the more we investigated it, the more we came up with dead ends. >> and carrie ran her own personal task force of one. when tips came in of sightings in mexico, she got in her car and drove into tijuana, another 60 miles to mexicali. to scour the streets for amber.
>> i always told the law enforcement where i was going. they would say, do you know how dangerous that is? >> we advised her not to go because if somebody down there knew i think she had at that time a $40,000 or $50,000 reward, there would be great reason to kidnap her and hold her. >> it's for my kid. they said, we're begging you not to go. i said i'll call you when i'm back. i think i went four, five times. >> no amber. what does she do? >> she would have a list of predators, and she would take a dozen a night. >> we had a call from an apartment complex manager that a female was yelling at individuals in the apartment complex. and when officers arrived, it was carrie mcgonigle yelling at a sex offender. and the sex offender was complaining to the apartment manager and the manager asked us to ask her to leave.
>> the threat didn't scare her. >> good, it will get the word out there. go ahead. >> but then the weeks became months, and ginning up hope got hard to do. the volunteers stopped coming. >> we had days when we had hups and hundreds and hundreds of people. but then it would steadily drop down to points where there were weeks when we had like eight people show up. >> in june, four months after amber disappeared, the volunteer search center closed. on february 13, 2010, they marked the somber anniversary. >> our biggest fear is going our entire careers, if not our lifetime, and not knowing what happened to amber dubois. and the likelihood of solving this case was very limited, if at all. >> and then -- >> the search is on for a missing 17-year-old poway girl, chelsea king. >> -- it happened again.
thursday, february 25, 2010, just over a year since amber dubois vanished. another teenager was missing, ten miles away in a suburb of san diego. >> i'm, like, how can this happen almost a year, you know, same month? i'm like, how can it happen? >> it began in a parking lot near a popular local hiking trail. >> we get calls oftentimes about juveniles, girls, you know, runaways. >> two san diego county sheriff deputies responded to a call from panicked parents. >> this one i think made the
hair stand up a little bit on the deputy's neck. >> chelsea king, a straight-a student, collegebound, had come to rancho bernardo park as she often did at 2:00 in the afternoon for a brisk five-mile run. broad daylight, a well-known, well-used, safe hiking trail which skirted the marshy banks of a long shallow lake. but then she was late, didn't answer her cell, didn't return her parents' messages. chelsea's dad called the cell phone provider, which looked up the tower the signal was hitting, led her dad to her phone, which was inside her locked car in that parking lot. >> just finding her car, it was unusual. >> it was not just a teenager out here with her boyfriend. it made me think that something had gone wrong. >> it certainly had. >> chelsea king is described as having strawberry blond hair. >> and another public nightmare
began. >> anybody out there, if you know anything, please just help us bring her home. >> she's a great kid. >> she's such a good girl. she needs to come home. >> word got around fast. >> we immediately felt what they were going through. >> i was ready to get in my car and go. i was, like, i want to go help search. that was my instinct. >> bonnie dumanis was one of the first to get the news. >> everybody began thinking of amber right from the beginning, i think. i think that's what made everybody so scared about chelsea, knowing that this had happened, you know, with amber. >> amber, who was in some ways so similar. >> beautiful girls, both 5'5", both light complected. >> that very thursday afternoon, within hours of chelsea's disappearance, friends fanned out around the park, the neighborhood around it, even total strangers joined in. and just along here, perhaps two miles from chelsea's abandoned car, between a creek bed and row of houses, as the cold settled
in and the daylight failed -- >> one of the people that were coming from the neighborhood to search came across a pair of underwear and socks that did not appear trampled or discarded. they were right in the center of the walking trail. >> could have been anyone's, of course, but how did they get here? >> they seemed to be freshly there. >> was there a connection? sergeant dave brown sent a detective out to the trail. >> right along this trail here somewhere. >> right along this trail, just a little bit further down. the parents said, yes, that's the type she wears. >> was there a clear indication that there might be dna? >> yes. there was a small amount of blood that was found. >> it didn't look good. they sent the clothes to the dna lab for confirmation. and deployed a virtual army, helicopters with infrared tracking, search and rescue teams. hundreds of people began beating the impossibly tangled thicket
around thousands of acres around rancho bernardo land, and divers went into the lake and its underwater forests. >> you can see the shoreline, and it's very thick. the trees in the middle are hidden by the deep water. >> sergeant don parker led the operation. >> you can see the difficulty. for instance, just here, if you take one step, you have to part the brush, another step, you have to part the brush. that's the way it was that day, that thursday night. >> night fell. still no sign of chelsea. where was she? on these miles of trails in this vast dark park. >> there's a lot of places where you can hide somebody. that's our problem. as you can see, this is a very, very expansive area. there's a lot of acreage here. >> by friday, the day after chelsea's disappearance, there were canine units, trucks, four-wheelers. >> we had hundreds and hundreds of folks coming from all over southern california. people were up for hours and
hours and hours. >> the sheriff bill gore manned the phones. >> there were literally calls from the fbi saying, i've got 25 agents, where do you want them? border patrol, got a call, and boom, they were there. >> the fbi canvassed some 300 homes around the park and its lake. police ran down 600 tips. the area's known sex offenders were tracked down as well. and by that weekend, two days missing -- >> we're looking for a 5'5", 115-pound girl. >> -- thousands came to look for chelsea, amber's parents among them. >> it was huge. the line of people, eight people wide, went around the whole building all the way out to the street. >> but this was not like the search for amber. there were no sightings of chelsea. >> this case was pretty specific. we believed she was out and went jogging in that park. the fact she didn't come back leads you to believe there was some type of foul play right from the beginning.
>> which is why the sheriff called dave brown and his team of homicide detectives. >> there were certain things about this msing person case that concerned the people that were investigating it. one of them was the clothing found, found really far away, a couple miles from where her car was found. there's no rational explanation for it. >> no rational explanation except foul play. and the next day, the second discovery. it was a mile from the place where the underwear and socks were found, near a running trail. a shoe. which appeared to be the very shoe chelsea was wearing in this photo. >> it was laying on the brush on top. it looked like someone had thrown it or dropped it, right there. >> the way these things are so far apart from each other, we figured foul play. whether or not she's deceased or just being held somewhere, we can't answer that. >> the chance they'd find chelsea alive was growing slim. the chance they'd find her at all was not much better. now there were two girls gone.
there's a lot of desperation. in the back of your mind, you're hoping that someone has her held against her will. so the detectives don't want to go home. nobody wants to go home. nobody wants to sleep. we have to find her. >> it was like some nightmarish deja vu. amber dubois vanished in san diego county. the search turned up nothing. a year later in a neighboring town, another teenage girl was gone, another search going nowhere. were the two connected?
that's what the cop who searched for amber wondered. >> it was more of a hope that they were somehow connected and would help us solve the amber case. >> and so he watched as search and rescue literally beat the bushes and probed the treacherous muddy water. and detectives in suits worked the neighborhoods nearby. >> find who her friends are, where she was, talking to everybody and anybody who might have been in that park that day, hoping to find something. of. >> and they were trying to make sense of evidence scattered around the park. chelsea's car was parked here, underwear with a slight stain of blood had been found on a trail here, a shoe a mile away. >> in the back of our minds we know it's a matter of time before we -- we may get the results from this dna. that will also prove if those are actually her items of clothing and shoe. >> then, three days after chelsea disappeared, more clothes surfaced not far from where the first items were
found. the mate to the first shoe and a sports bra here in a ditch. >> the area where we had searched and didn't find anything of value. >> what did you think when you found that stuff? >> there was an idea that maybe articles were being randomly thrown or scattered to throw us off of a trail, or throw us off a lead. >> was chelsea still in that park? was she dead or alive? and one more question -- had anyone else been attacked in that park? and, sure enough, a student home for the holidays, also a jogger, reported that she'd been attacked while running on a trail near where those first items of clothing were found. that was december, two months before chelsea vanished. what's chilling is it happened literally within feet of a whole row of houses. but what's good is the woman could provide a description of her attacker and what he tried to do. he was white, she said, maybe 25
or 26, stocky, muscular, brown hair, military type cut. she was running along the path. this guy tackled her from the side and she, understanding what was coming, said, you'll have to kill me. he said, that could be arranged. she knew tae kwon do, he contacted him in the nose. she wriggled away and ran like the wind out of there. other witnesses offered a vague description of a man they'd seen in the park the day chelsea disappeared. white male, heavy-set, did they have a serial attacker on their hands? was this part of the park his territory? it was now sunday afternoon, february 28th. chelsea had been missing for three days. how do you deal with the parents? >> i didn't have any answers for them. at one point they asked for a tour of various items that were found. >> so sergeant brown showed the kings where some of the clothing was found. >> we got to positions where we
could point it out. that's where we found this, that's where we found that. that's when the detective's phone rang. the dna came back. >> the dna on the clothing, it confirmed it was chelsea's. but the test produced something else, too. the most important discovery yet. inside that clothing was a second person's dna, and the lab got a hit. >> it came back to a sex registrant. >> chelsea's parents were standing beside them. did you tell them that? >> no, i did not. >> but the tour was over. sergeant brown gathered his team. >> we have the name and a prison number. we need to find out everything we can about this person. >> the dna match was to a convicted sex offender named john gardner, a man who had spent five years in prison for a sex assault back in 2000. >> is it a mixed blessing that it comes back to a sex registrant who's done time in prison? that's, you know, that's not a positive note, but at least we
knew who and where it was. and we knew we were going to close in. >> the search for gardner began that afternoon. >> we sent undercover people to watch the houses that might be where he lives. >> they approach carefully, watch from a distance. it was a slim chance, but what if he was holding her, saw the cops, panicked? >> in the back of everybody's mind, she's alive and you think maybe she's tied up somewhere, maybe she's being held captive, and we're going to find her and find her tonight. >> but she wasn't in any of those houses and neither was he. instead, they found gardner in a bar on the north side of the lake in the very park where chelsea had been running, hernandez hideaway. and this was weird. gardner's clothes were wet and muddy, as if he had been wading in the lake for some reason. they took him to the sheriff's lockup, sent lineup photographs to the young woman now back at college who had survived the
earlier attack in the park. >> and she picked john gardner instantly. >> what had this man with the wet and muddy clothes done with chelsea king? and, for that matter, did he know anything about that other missing girl, amber dubois? coming up -- the interrogation begins, and police are in for a ride. >> rolled back in the chair, did a full-on belly laugh, laughed for an extended period of time. it's positive. positive? we're gonna have a baby. ♪ ♪ now, when i was a little boy ♪ at the age of 5 ♪ i had somethin' in my pocket [ male announcer ] the four-door sports car. we're gonna have a baby. [ male announcer ] nissan maxima -- innovation for daddy... we're gonna have a baby! [ male announcer ] ...innovation for all. [ male announcer ] count on the new maytag maxima washer to give you the best cleaning in the industry.
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arrested? >> very unhappy. wanted to know why he was being arrested, believed the accusations were false. >> detectives pat o'brien, scott enyard, and palmer interrogated him. >> we believe and hoped she was alive, so we kept asking, where is chelsea king? >> how did he respond? >> he denied everything. he denied being in contact with her. the only information he said he had was from the television. >> but you said you had his dna? >> we approached and said we had his dna, and he said we were liars. >> what was his demeanor? >> calm one minute, angry on another, almost crying another. >> he thought part of it was humorous to him and part of it was just offensive, how dare we even consider him as a suspect. he actually made it perfectly
clear that he hated law enforcement. he said he was treated poorly while in the department of he for that reason. >> he had been arrested here at hernandez hideaway. wet and muddy. he said he slipped in mud and hopped in the lake to rinse off. >> first question is why is he in the lake? hernandez hideaway is on the north end of lake hodges. >> but the evidence, those bits of chelsea's clothing, were found on the south end of the lake. >> so now we're thinking, has he placed chelsea somewhere on the north side of the lake and he's going to retrieve or see if she's still there? >> and you're looking for clues that he's going to give you either verbally or nonverbally, whatever. >> the questioning was strictly limited to this -- where was chelsea? >> our sole purpose was to find chelsea king alive and get her some kind of help so we couldn't
go into too much detail about why and what you were doing. we kept trying to keep him focused to find out, where is she at? what did you do with her? >> the suspect wouldn't budge. they kept prodding. >> so scott's got a photograph of chelsea king and continually pushed it in front of him. he would glance at it, he wouldn't look at it very long, but then he would continue deny, deny, deny. scott would keep talking to him, where is she? where is she? then he would go off on some tangent. >> did you get any sense of the sort of personality you were dealing with when you talked to him? >> yes, psychotic, had some major anger issues. >> they left the room for a few minutes, watched him on a video monitor as gardner looked at a photo of chelsea. >> and basically called chelsea a bitch, why are you doing this to my life? and flipped the paper away.
>> and then mid-interview gardner surprised them. he brought up a name. the name of a girl who had disappeared more than a year earlier. >> a photo of chelsea is sitting in front of him. at some point he says, you guys, in essence, are probably going to try to finger me for that amber girl's disappearance. >> i asked where she was, and he played it off. he wouldn't even pronounce her name properly. >> at that point the officer said gardner began laughing hysterically. >> he he rolled back in the chair, did a full-on belly laugh, and laughed for some extended period of time. >> at that point you knew you weren't getting this guy out of this guy. >> correct. we definitely knew he was guilty, there was nothing he could do at that point. >> nothing but redouble the effort to try to find chelsea. her parents couldn't help but hope that this brought them a step closer to finding their daughter. >> it gave us hope that chelsea is still there, we just have to find her. so i mean, i'm not going to think about who he is, what he
is. >> there's an incredible amount of rage that boils, but right now we're focused on chelsea. >> rage? yes, of course. but imagine what brent king might have thought when he learned just a little more, as you will too, about the history of mr. john gardner. >> the man was evaluated ten years previously by a board-certified psychiatrist who found that he was a danger and a continuing danger to the public, and apparently that warning was not listened to. i was shocked. coming up -- who was john gardner really? good friend? >> john told us what had happened. >> or sinister offender? >> this was a man who started out being violent. >> two very different pictures come into focus when "in broad daylight" continues.
for chelsea's parents. >> i was relieved that this monster is no longer out there and able to do this to anyone else. >> who was john gardner? by the time they arrested him, police had assembled some disturbing information. this would not go down well in san diego county. >> he had been a convicted sex offender. the initial crime was serious. he was convicted for six years for sexual assault in 2000, i believe it was. >> in fact, he had served five years of that sentence for sexually assaulting and brutally beating his 13-year-old neighbor. this is where, in march of 2000, gardner became a sex offender. it was daytime, his own mother's house. he was 20 then, invited a 13-year-old over to watch videos with him. he began groping, she begged him to stop, he intensified his attack, she resisted, he began
beating her severely. the incident left her so traumatized her family had to move to a different part of california. but gardner denied it all. he even blamed the beating on the victim's mother. jennifer brandt was a friend of gardner's back then. >> i remember john had come up to the mountains and told us what had happened and that he was going to have to go to court for this. >> they went to high school together in the san bernardino mountains 100 miles from san diego. >> he told us it wasn't him. the girl had a boyfriend and he thought that the girl just didn't want to admit to her parents that she was having sex with her boyfriend, so she was going to blame the neighbor, being john. >> she and her circle of friends all believed him, she says. the john gardner they knew was a good friend, always helpful. he confided in her that he had been diagnosed as bipolar. >> he did display, i guess, the
symptoms of it. really high highs and really low lows. on one of the occasions that he was in a low, he started telling me about some things that happened in his childhood, that a family member had actually molested him. >> gardner and his mother moved to san diego from the mountains in 1998. according to court records, he was working at a sporting goods store when he was arrested in 2000. he was about to turn 21, had wanted to become a math teacher. his arrest put an end to those plans. gardner always proclaimed his innocence but agreed to a plea deal, telling his probation officer three attorneys warned him he'd get reamed if he went to trial. but before he was sentenced, the court ordered a forensic psychiatrist to evaluate gardner to help determine whether he should receive probation or how long he should be imprisoned. >> it was a very serious offense, even though it was the first time.
this was a man who started out being violent. >> dr. mark kalish is a forensic psychiatrist who's read the documents on this case and also a colleague of the doctor who wrote the evaluation. that doctor, matthew carroll, decline "dateline's" request for an interview. >> it's a rare case where the individual starts out in their first offense by assaulting the victim. so that was a warning sign to dr. carroll that this was not the typical case. this was a man who was on a very, very steep trajectory for future violence. >> the psychiatrist's warnings, as noted in gardner's probation report, were dire. the defendant manifests significant predatory traits to underage females. the defendant would be a continued danger to underage girls in the community. and it would be unlikely that the defendant would be amenable to treatment. the psychiatrist recommended the maximum sentenced allowed by
law. >> in my experience, i don't think that i've ever seen a psychiatrist make a louder and clearer call. >> and the doctor who evaluated gardner was apparently so concerned about it he followed up his report with a phone call to gardner's probation officer, with yet another warning. the defendant does not suffer from a psychotic disorder, he said. he's simply a bad guy who is inordinately interested in young girls. such calls are rare, says dr. kalish. >> when psychiatrists become desperate, we pick up the phone. >> despite the warnings, the prosecutor, probation officer and judge all decided that john gardner should get a mid-level sentence of six years rather than ten years which would have been the maximum sentence under the plea deal. >> i have reviewed this case with the glasses of having been
a prosecutor, having been a municipal court judge, superior court judge and now the d.a. >> bonnie dumanis is the san diego county d.a. she was not the d.a. in 2000 when this crime occurred. we asked to speak to the prosecutor in that case but were told that dumanis would answer our questions. >> what happened in this case was appropriate. >> midrange as opposed to maximum possible. >> that's right. >> that's in spite of a psychiatrist's report that said this guy is really dangerous and will always be dangerous. why would that not have jacked it up to a full ten-year sentence? >> first of all, there were two psychiatric reports. >> right. >> one was saying he was a danger. one was saying that he was treatable and recommended inpatient treatment for 90 days and probation. >> but this is a guy who had seen him once in five years. >> but he examined him just as much as the guy who saw him for an hour. he had actually treated him.
>> but that report was only one factor in the sentencing decision. there were glowing character references. i know in my heart of hearts john gardner is a rare and good breed. i dated him for a year and a half. john is the one person who made me feel completely safe in the world. i believe john will become a great man, husband, father. >> he was 20 years old, no prior record, and the presumption of the law was the middle term. >> six years. out after five. and now this. but the second-guessing went on hold for the moment because just now there was a far bigger issue -- what had john gardner done with chelsea king? was she still alive? and, if so, where? coming up -- >> everybody's pager went off, and everybody's heart sank. >> the mystery surrounding chelsea would be solved very soon.
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>> investigators on the amber dubois case in the neighboring town of escondido had a question -- was your guy also our guy? >> i sat in my car and had a teleconference with them. >> the arrest of john gardner set off a small earthquake among the cops searching for amber. >> they've been sending e-mails trying to get ahold of us. we were a little busy to talk about their case. >> but they kept talking even as they ramped up the search for chelsea king. hopes that she was alive flickered but held. it was tuesday march 2nd, day five of the search for chelsea. that day her parents worked on plans for a vigil, a sign that no one was giving up. >> it's just one more thing about chelsea, when she comes home she's going to see and want to give back 1,000 times over. >> if amber's parents hadn't given up, neither would they.
the kings met them when they came out to help search. >> the strength they display is driving us. when mo looks me in the eyes and says, don't worry, we're going to find her, that's -- that's strength. >> yeah. >> out in the park tuesday morning, search and rescue teams continued to search the brush and waterways. >> they would do shoulder to shoulder, go underwater, look, come back up, check to make sure they were in a line. they have to do it systematically. >> how many times did they do that? >> i would say six, seven times. we searched this entire area here. >> the shoreline here had particular interest because chelsea's shoe had been found just a few feet from here. >> so the shoe was basically in this area. >> just laid on top of the brush. >> then from here we go north straight to the water. >> that afternoon downtown the homicide team was called to a meeting with d.a. bonnie dumanis.
>> once he was arrested, we knew that there was going to be a prosecution. >> dumanis by that tuesday had few illusions left about finding chelsea alive. >> the circumstances were such that we felt it was a murder case and potential death penalty case. >> thus, the meeting with homicide detectives. what case are you going to present? >> we charged him with murder, and we still didn't have a body. >> and then mid-meeting, that's when it happened. >> the detectives were presenting the case when everybody's pager went off. and everybody's heart sank. >> it was chelsea. rescue divers had found her body. >> one of the dive personnel was in a boat and beached the boat literally right here. then him and his partner actually started walking this way, and shortly thereafter
noticed an area a little bit further this way. and that's when chelsea was found. >> it was that small area which had been searched so many times, the place the shoe was found, 15 feet from the edge of the water, a shallow grave. there's a little shrine around it now, a patch of decorated earth. sheriff gore delivered the news. >> that was probably the longest drive i've ever had in my life to go to the king house. it was just news that nobody in law enforcement ever wants to deliver. it was just heart-wrenching. >> it's the worst day of our lives ever, and there's no deeper pain that we'll ever feel again. so i -- it was the depth of
despair. as if it was right now. >> what type of creature would do this? >> not far away amber dubois' mother carrie heard the news too. the reaction was almost physical. >> when the body was found, i started panicking. i didn't want to bury amber. i would rather have her missing than have to bury her. it hit me really hard. >> that evening what was to have been a search vigil for chelsea became a memorial instead. thousands came. >> she's my angel forever. i want to thank you, and chelsea wants to thank you. keep her spirit alive for us. >> john albert gardner. >> gardner was in court the next day charged with murdering chelsea king while committing a rape. he was also charged with assault with intent to commit rape for the attack on that student back in december.
>> mr. gardner wishes to enter a plea of not guilty to both counts. >> amber's father was at the hearing. afterwards he worried what it meant for his daughter. >> in the back of our heads, we are kind of concerned that there is a connection. >> and though no one had proved john gardner's guilt, around san diego, he had become infamous, public enemy number one. and as people learned more about that 2000 case, the psychiatrist's report and gardner's failure to reveal where he was staying, the outrage boiled over. >> as i think pretty much all of san diego county is completely disgusted with this. >> during the week before the attack on chelsea, gardner had been staying with his mother, a few blocks from the park in which chelsea was murdered. in fact, it was the very same house in which he attacked that 13-year-old back in 2000. but when police had gone around the neighborhood looking for sex offenders, they did not come to this house. no reason to. >> he was actually registered at his grandmother's house in lake elsinore so gardner would not
come up in that search because he was registered in lake elsinore. >> that was 50 miles away, another county. >> the mother never forced john to report it. he may have met the guidelines only coming down a certain amount of days, but people felt threatened not knowing a sex registrant was living that close to them. >> once the news broke, gardner's mother seemed to be trying her best to hide from the media, from the public anger. anger so strong someone separate-painted these words on her house, holding her, along with her son, accountable for chelsea's death. >> if i was them and i saw that, i would move out, move out of the area. >> when some of the gardner's friends came by to paint over those words, they were driven away. >> get the hell out of here! i can see the sympathy you have for her. i can see it in your eyes. get the hell out of this neighborhood. you don't belong here.
>> in the midst of that public shock and anger, detectives in the chelsea case again considered those calls and e-mails from their fellow cops that had been looking for amber dubois. was there a connection? maybe. >> we realized that john gardner was a resident of escondido and was one of our registered sex offenders back in the time that amber disappeared. that's when the light bulb went off. coming up -- the race to find amber. >> i'm absolutely 100% hopeful she's alive. >> were detectives getting closer? and was this suspect number one? when "in broad daylight" continues. ugh, time to color. woohoo! whoa. haircolor is a chore no more! you gotta come see what's new. c'mon! tadaaa! welcome to haircolor heaven. aa-ah-ahhh! courtesy of new nice 'n easy colorblend foam. permanent, dimensional color, now in a delightful foam!
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the arrest john gardner for the murder of chelsea king prompted serious rethinking a few miles up the road in escondido. amber dubois' parents, for example, remembered something about that man. he was a registered sex offender in escondido at the time amber vanished. this was one of the people on your crazy list of going around at night and -- >> yeah, it was. i think there were 148 at that time.
yeah, it was one of them. >> john gardner, it turned out, had been living here in this apartment complex in escondido at the time amber disappeared. >> some of my volunteers did wait outside of his apartment waiting for him to see what he drove or whatever. but they never made contact with him. >> after his arrest, carrie couldn't see how gardner could be connected to her daughter's disappearance. >> gardner seems to attack girls that are by themselves, and amber was last seen by two eyewitnesss in front of the school. for him to do that in front of all those kids just seemed really unlikely. >> police had also been aware of john gardner. but finding evidence now that he was somehow involved in amber's disappearance was not going to be easy. yes, gardner was a known sex offender who in fact lived two miles from the school. police here in escondido had regular contact with him, as they do with all sex registrants, but there was no reason then, said captain bob benton, to suspect him.
>> in every one of those contacts mr. gardner was in compliance with his sex offender requirements. and he wasn't in the area of where she went missing. he wasn't in the area where the sightings were, and he was not considered to be high risk. >> not officially at least, though there was, as everybody would discover, much more to learn about that. gardner did have a brush with the law in the spring of 2009 after amber disappeared. a woman in a parking lot flagged down a police officer to complain that gardner had been following her in his car, but when a cop confronted him? >> he had asked him why he was following this female. he had responded that this woman had cut him off in traffic. >> as the cop talked to gardner, something else caught his eye. this known sex offender had a 3-year-old in the car with him. >> that was of obvious concern to the stopping officer. why is this sex registrant with a 3-year-old child?
>> it turned out it was his girlfriend's child. she verified the story. and besides, he was off parole, had no restrictions at all about being around small children. but now, after his arrest for the murder of chelsea king, the amber task force went back and reviewed everybody. reviewed everything. amber's cell phone records, internet hits, all those leads during a year of searching. >> looking at all 1,200 tips, seeing if there was anything in there on john gardner, and there wasn't. there was no connection at all linking him and amber dubois. >> so they looked back to the day she went missing. two witnesses had seen amber in front of the school. one of them said she was with a boy. >> must be somebody that knew her or she knew that she felt comfortable with. and again we were looking for a boy. >> a year later, detectives
began thinking back to that particular witness description. >> one of the witnesses had last seen amber walking with a tall, doughy, dark-skinned boy, which somewhat described john gardner. we were thinking, well, it's possible that based on it being a drizzly day, lighting is limited, a parent just driefg up and lo driving up looking at a boy, maybe appears to be younger than he actually was. >> so now police re-interviewed the witnesses and the residents of gardner's apartment complex and his girlfriend. all dead ends. then a tip came in, which sent the divers to a park in escondido. two children told their mother they might have seen a body in a bag around a pond. >> when i was watching all the divers, and they were going through all the muck. and i'm like getting nervous, of course, when they're doing this. >> search and rescue teams drained the pond, searched through reeds and brush
surrounding it. and nothing. yet another dead-end. >> i'm like, whew, it was such a relief, knowing there's no way she could be in there because they were all down to the bottom. >> so a little spark of hope rose to the surface again. >> oh, i'm absolutely 100% hopeful she's alive. >> still, had john gardner ever run into amber? was he involved? even if no one could prove it? >> if we ever start to believe that gardner's connected to amber, it's basically us losing hope, you know, and we're never going to do that. we're going to deny it until we have an answer and we have our daughter home. >> but out here among the searchers at this sad little pond, mo dubois could have no idea that farther south in san diego sergeant brown had already embarked on a very unusual errand. >> you could say it was a unique day. >> but just where he was going he had no idea.
>> he just guided us up the street, you know. he explained where we would probably turn off on a dirt road. and we did just that. >> a journey down a dirt road? where could it possibly lead? >> this could be an escape attempt. >> come on. this guy is in jail for murder, and he wants to go on a field trip? this may not go well. 18 minutes. can andres download a movie before the flight attendant shuts him down and save himself from his yammering neighbors ? blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. thirty-one percent. you're not gonna get it. it's going fast ! seventy percent. one minute to go. here she comes, she's coming. please power down all devices. all right, so what'd you get ? i got a whole movie and a game ! whoa ! it's america's fastest and largest high-speed wireless network-- verizon. built so you can rule the air.
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it happened even as search and rescue teams were wading through that escondido pond, following what might be a lead in amber dubois' disappearance. 20 miles south in downtown san diego, d.a. bonnie dumanis received a mysterious request to meet with gardner's attorney. >> wouldn't discuss what it was. >> gardner had been claiming, remember, he had nothing to do with amber's disappearance, but this morning his lawyer offered a deal. and it was huge. gardner would lead detectives to amber, but he would only do it on one condition, that they couldn't use it against him. >> if we didn't use the fact that he took us there in any --
as evidence in any court proceeding and that his attorney had to be present and we couldn't question him in any way. >> she took the deal, and sergeant brown's phone rang. >> we got told to go down to the jail and we were going to go on a field trip with gardner. >> and sergeant brown and his men were told the rules. >> this was not his confession, but he was going to show where it was. >> they had 30 minutes to prepared, called the s.w.a.t. team for backup. >> come on! the guy is in jail for murder. >> this could be an escape attempt. he's a big guy. this might not go well. >> and so off they went. gardner showing them the way. a detective surreptitiously texting directions to the undercover s.w.a.t. cars around them.
>> we set them up in a few strategic locations, and as we were driving on the freeway, we knew where we'd pick them up, different cars at different on-ramps. >> this is where they drove. through an indian reservation, up a dirt track to the top of a rocky hill. she's in there somewhere, he told them. this is 20 miles from where she disappeared. >> did you have any idea where you were going? get a sense of -- >> no. he can't really point he was in waist chains. but this goes off a cliff. to get his bearings, he would -- >> and i would grab him, if he goes off this cliff, no one's going to believe me he accidentally went off this cliff. >> he looked around, seemed confused. >> he came up here, he went right to here and says, right there, right about here. and he's not exactly certain. then he takes a few steps this way, changes his mind. >> what were you thinking, as you're looking down at this?
>> well, this isn't going to be a fun walk, and also, how did you get there? he is trying to go here, can't make it, he comes back and resets, and says, oh, i think it's this way. honestly we were frustrated. we still don't know if he's doing this just to get out of the jail for a day. >> they were still watching for any escape attempt. then gardner found a familiar area. >> then he gets to about here, then he remembers, and he says, this is it, this is it, and he was, i daresay, excited. >> detectives walked their shackled prisoner down a steep incline. >> so we were just sliding down this. >> i can see why you would. this is very steep. pushing their way through the thick brush and trees. until they got to an old rusted water tank. >> this is a tank. i remember holding him right there, and he's pointing here
and he goes right about here. he's also unsure of himself. i think right there. i think right there. >> then he saw something, a reminder. >> he leaned into me and said, see the shovel mark? there was a distinctive mark, i know it's going to be there, because i had a shovel. so that was enough, i pulled him out of here. >> what were you thinking? >> i work in the homicide division. i'm just used to it, let's just say. but this was absolutely surreal. and i know this case. i know this girl. i live in this community. this is in my newspaper and i see her face or poster in every business and store i go in to. and, you know, here i am, and he's walking me to the grave. >> here was the spot where he claimed to have buried amber dubois over a year ago in a thicket of trees on a hillside in the middle of nowhere. no houses anywhere. accessible by only one dirt road. >> i don't believe anybody would
have ever found this site. >> and then a small army was called, still in secret, to that lonely hill. detectives, a forensic archeologist, medical examiner. for 12 hours they sifted meticulously through the dirt to find -- well, it had once been a person. up on the hill, captain benton made the next decision. >> we didn't want to notify the family not knowing whether it truly was amber or not. >> but the next day, saturday, the medical examiner had made a positive identification. gardner had indeed led them to amber's remains. more calls to make. >> when we received the call on saturday night, we immediately get a sinking feeling in our stomach because we've been called in many times to have talks. never at -- >> on a saturday. >> on a saturday night at 8:00 p.m. >> would they come to the escondido police station?
>> walking in there, seeing the medical examiners, all of our investigators were there, the minister, the sheriff's department, d.a.'s office, you know what you're going to hear next. >> medical examiner told us that her remains were found today, positively i.d.'d her through it dental records. >> i can't say that i was prepared, but after 386 days of searching we're ready for anything they can tell us. give us an answer. make this stop. >> what did you do after that meeting, the two of you? >> cried. for days. >> the escondido police chief made the announcement the next day, sunday, march 7, 2010. two teenagers found dead in less than a week. >> human skeletal remains have been positively identified as being those of our missing 14-year-old amber. >> but what he didn't say to amber's parents or to anyone
was, call it the official secret. the fact that gardner had led them to the body. why not tell? because now investigators needed to prove gardner's guilt without using a shred of what he had shown or told them. >> escondido police and sheriff's homicide detectives were following a la ing a lead when they made this discovery. >> but frankly they were stuck. independent evidence? so far, none. means gardner might never be charged with killing amber. unless -- unless someone offered an incredible gesture. coming up -- one heartbroken family reaches out to another, paving the way for a stunning moment in court. >> do you admit that? >> yes. on this looming shutdown
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there were memorials then. >> i wake up every morning now, and i have to remember how to breathe. >> the searches were over. they tried to figure out how to go on. >> i will channel my rage and commit to spending my life making our society safe from the incurable evil. >> there were thousands of these events, a measure of the upset, the impact of the killings. >> for every single person who's ever shed a tear for amber, for chelsea, i beg you to please put
one minute of effort, one minute of action into helping protect our children. >> and, while that was going on, investigators searched furiously for any evidence that would independently link john gardner to the death of amber dubois. >> what that included was finding every vehicle that he had at the time that -- or access to at the time that amber disappeared. and i believe there were four different vehicles. we had to find where every one of those vehicles were, have them forensically examined. >> the investigation continues. and the days ticked from march into april when we sat with amber's parents. remember, they had not been told that gardner led police to amber's remains or even that gardner was known to be the man who abducted and killed her. we asked them if they were prepared never to know for certain who killed amber or how police found her. it may be that nobody's ever
charged. may be that you just have to live the rest of your lives not knowing. >> i'm more fearful that there might be another predator out there as opposed to more upset as not having the answer. i want to make sure that whoever did this to amber is off the street. that's what scares me the most, you know? what if they never connect this to somebody and the person who actually did this is still out there and can do it again? >> but it was a different question carrie had on her mind. what happened to amber? she wanted to know, had to know everything. you want to hear whoever did this tell you exactly what happened? >> um-hmm. >> you do? >> oh, yeah, absolutely. >> i couldn't hear it from the person's mouth saying i did this, i did that. >> i could. >> i couldn't. i couldn't do it without wanting to reach over and cause myself to be in jail for a long time. >> but here on this april afternoon, the question was
academic. more likely they would never know. strange the difference a week can make. it was april 15th, five days after our interview. amber's parents were called to a meeting where they learned for the first time who led authorities to their daughter's remains. >> we knew it was significant because we had to go downtown to meet with the district attorney. >> and they were informed of an offer made by john gardner's attorney. >> his attorney came forward with an offer to plead guilty to all of the charges for life without possibility of parole and waiving his appellate rights. >> in exchange, gardner's attorney wanted the death penalty off the table. so her dilemma -- should she continue to develop her strong death penalty case in the murder of chelsea king? should she wait for the task force to link gardner to amber's death, too? or would that ever happen?
>> there was absolutely no link that anyone was able to find between john gardner and amber. >> and so d.a. dumanis was faced with a choice -- proceed only in the chelsea king case or make another deal to get some kind of justice for amber. >> you could have won pretty easily a death penalty case in the chelsea king case. why not just do that, get the death penalty for that one? >> the question was for the family. so the family i talked to was chelsea's family because we had no case on amber. and we talked about the fact that the end result with a life without possibility of parole is he'd die in prison and there would be no appeals. >> so the kings were faced with a decision -- would amber's parents ever learn what in fact happened to their daughter? would they see her killer pay for this crime? april 16th, the day after mo and
carrie learned about the plea deal. >> this is a special news report. >> san diego television stations interrupted their afternoon programs. >> a hearing is scheduled in the courthouse for john gardner. >> there was news, a lot of it, all at once. >> let us take you live. there's john gardner right there. >> the truth of that allegation? >> yes. >> a stunning admission of guilt, first for chelsea king. >> you're admitting on february 25, 2010, you attacked chelsea king while she was running, you dragged her to a remote area, where you raped and strangled her, then buried her in a shallow grave. do you admit that? >> yes. >> do you also admit the killing was done with premeditation and deliberation? >> yes. >> and the murder took place within an hour of your initial contact with chelsea king? you admit those facts as well? >> yes. >> then the jogger in december. >> do you admit on december
27, 2009 you attacked candace mankayo while she was running and unlawfully assaulted her with the intent to rape her? >> yes. >> and after 14 months an end to the mystery of what happened to amber dubois. >> you admit on february 13, 2009, you took amber dubois to a remote area of pala, where you raped and stabbed her, you then buried her in a shallow grave, do you admit the truth of those facts? >> yes. >> you're also admitting that this murder took place within an hour and a half of your initial contact with amber dubois. you admit all those facts as well? >> yes. >> in exchange for a life sentence, gardner admitted all and pleaded guilty. it was a deal made possible because of a choice willingly made by one grieving family in an effort to spare more pain for another. >> the dubois family has been
through unthinkable hell the past 14 months. we couldn't imagine the confession to amber's murder never seeing the light of day, leaving an eternal question mark. >> and amber's parents were grateful. >> going the rest of my life without knowing would have been horrible. we would have been always wondering if he was connected or if there was someone else out there. >> but now that she knew? now she was determined to come face-to-face with her daughter's killer. no matter what it took. >> i want to talk to your son and find out why he murdered my daughter. coming up -- an emotional meeting behind prison doors.
what is your plea? >> guilty. >> it was after john gardner stood in this san diego courtroom and pleaded guilty to the murders of chelsea king and amber dubois. >> probation hearing is set -- >> it was as he waited for the formal sentencing, life in prison, that he knew was coming. from the san diego county jail cell, gardner gave an interview to a local tv station and said he would only talk to the families about what happened to chelsea and amber.
>> as soon as i heard those words, it was all i focused on. >> because carrie, remember, was determined to know what happened to her daughter during the last minutes she was alive. >> i think if you're a parent you want to know what happened, you want to know how they took your child. if there's a lesson that can be learned then i want out there. >> so early in may she began trying to arrange a visit. >> i kept going through the legal channels, and they kept insisting i meet with him after sentencing, and i didn't want that. >> she tried to schedule a visit, was told none was available. so carrie had a bold idea. why not ask gardner's mother to give up one of her visits with her son? and so one afternoon she waited outside the jail as gardner's mother approached. it didn't go well. >> look, i just want to visit your son. >> excuse me.
>> don't touch me, i'll hit you. >> don't touch me. >> i'm not. get away from her. >> i'm not here to bother you. i want to talk to your son and find out why he murdered my daughter. >> the next day there was a phone call from the jailer. >> can you be here in a half hour? >> somehow the time was found for her talk with gardner. what was it like to walk in there and know you were going to talk to the guy who killed year daughter? >> i was real nervous up until i got there. going in there and talking with him just didn't really have any feelings with me. i had forgiven whoever had done this to amber when i got her remains back. so to me it was just a person talking. >> he was already sitting behind the partition when she arrived. >> i think maybe i glanced at him once. >> where were you looking? >> just down. just not at him.
i really had no desire to look at him. >> why not? >> i didn't want to get angry or upset. i wanted to stay focused. so for me to stay focused, i just looked down or doodled on paper or whatever. i really wanted to stay in the mindset where i didn't start crying or get upset. >> so what did you ask him? >> walk me through your day. >> and now carrie would finally learn what happened to amber in the last hours of her life. >> he started in the morning. him and his girlfriend got in a fight. >> so he took off in a car to blow off steam, he said. >> and he happened to drive by the street where amber was taken. why she was on that street i don't know. >> it was not the way amber usually went to school. >> my guess is that she was probably going by her girlfriend's house that lives right around the corner. >> he snatched her here, gardner told carrie. >> he saw amber walking by herself.
he turned and cut her off and told her, if you don't get in this car, i have a knife and gun, and it will be real bad for you. she got in the car. he didn't have a gun. i don't know if he showed her the knife or not. i'm not sure. he said she knew by the look in my eyes that i was serious. there was no questions about it. and honestly i think if she would have tried to run, he might have just killed her right there on the spot. >> did you ask him for more than that? >> yeah. he told me which way he drove. he was very detailed about the streets he went on. >> he stopped the conversation repeatedly, said carrie. >> asked me if he could -- if i wanted him to continue. he got real upset which i told him to continue. he said i don't want to upset you. and i said you've already taken my daughter. continue. when it got to, you know, the
rape part of it, he -- he, you know, pretty much begged, please can i stop? and i'm like, continue. he said, i don't want to. by the time i left there, he was pretty much curled over, sweating, just, you know, complete crying. he was a mess. >> so he did have some feeling. >> or he's a very good actor. >> so once you got the answers you knew you could get from him, did you say anything else? >> no. he asked me are you going to tell me you hate me? are you going to yell? i'm ready to hear that. i said, nope. i hung up the phone and walked out. >> did you walk out a different person than when you walked in? >> i walked off that place very happy, very just kind of giddy. i'm like, my god, i can breathe. it's such a relief. it really was -- it was a great feeling. >> an unexpected reaction? perhaps. though how could anyone know how
it feels to be carrie mcgonigle or to be the parents of chelsea king, here in court on sentencing day? >> look at me. coming up -- one last haunting question. are you saying, then, that the deaths of these two girls would have been prevented? and a revelation from a mother. >> i said, wow, you just showed the whole world what amber and chelsea saw. >> a look into the soul of a killer. and coming up on sunday, the boy from baby house 10. a sad orphanage, silent kids, where one boy just wouldn't be ignored. >> he said i won't stop thinking about you. >> but then he was taken here, a place far worse. he was fading. >> i saw in her arms a pale ghost-like figure. >> half a world away, a stranger felt a spark. >> i thought that child is for me.
john gardner was guilty, no doubt about it. he was a predator and a murderer. all that was left to do was sentence him. so case closed? not really. for three months, a steady drip of news seemed to ask over and over, how did they miss him? gardner, remember, spent five years in prison for sexually molesting and beating a 13-year-old girl back in 2000. he was paroled in 2005.
>> it was maddening to us. everything that led up to his being free on the street, allowing him to stalk our children. >> maddening because there had been fair warning. a psychiatrist a decade earlier warned he was very dangerous and should receive the maximum ten-year sentence under his plea deal. had that advice been taken, gardner might still have been in prison well into last year. >> there's numerous, numerous times he fell through the cracks. >> like, for example, his parole violations once released. the cops found marijuana in his car. for a time he lived too close to children. but the judgment of the parole department was not to bust him. and then the public discovered that gardner wore a gps monitor. his last year on parole, which ended in 2008, just four months before amber disappeared.
but no one was watching. and -- >> we found over 100 violations of parole that hadn't been previously discovered by the department. we missed some opportunities to, you know, remove him from society. >> dave shaw is the inspector general for the california department of corrections, the agency's watchdog, which after the fact looked into the gardner case. >> he spent time, you know, adjacent to daycare centers, to schools, to parks, to playgrounds, to the beach, all places that he shouldn't have been at. and we didn't catch it because we weren't looking. >> nor was anyone watching when gardner drove into the parking lot of a state prison. gardner said it was to drop off a friend, but it's against the law for an ex-con to enter prison grounds. that, san diego's d.a. told us, was a felony that could have locked him up for a very long time. >> we would have filed a three strikes case because his 2000
case was two strikes and he'd be facing 25 years to life. >> are you saying the deaths of these two girls could have been prevented? >> had he been incarcerated, it would have been impossible, and there were ample opportunities to revoke his parole or prosecute him. >> but no one at the time was monitoring gardner's gps. >> did you find fault with somebody or some system? >> we think it was the system at fault. we didn't find any particular fault on the part of the parole agent. the agents were looking at it because they weren't required to. >> listen to this. they weren't expected to track gardner's gps monitor because of the way a standardized assessment used by most states, by the way, classified gardner's risk potential as medium-low risk. >> with the lower risk offenders, it was only used as a crime solving tools. >> matthew cade is head of the california department of
corrections. >> so if a crime is reported, then we go back to the tracks. >> gardner a lower-risk offender? again he says it was the assessment method itself, its limitations, that failed to spot him as dangerous. but when gardner was paroled -- >> this was the most accurate tool in the world. and so we used it. i wish we'd known then what we know now, but the department just didn't have anything else to use at the time. >> it's based on factors such as age, number of offenses, type of crime. >> i think the public wants us to be able to predict who exactly is going to do what. we'll never be able to do that. low risk doesn't mean no risk. >> improvements are planned, like more and better gps tracking of sex offender parolees, and treatment for sex offenders, and use of polygraph tests in an effort to keep track
of parolees to see if they're in danger of re-offending. what do you say to a headline that says these two girls would be alive today if the system had done its job? >> i don't agree that any one thing necessarily would have made the difference. it's hard to know. we can learn from this. it's worth ten headlines if we get a little better and there isn't a next victim. >> we'll move then to the victim impact statements. >> there's an emotional structure now to sentencing days in american courtrooms. wrenching, often deeply angry. >> i pray every night that god shows you no mercy. >> and this is how it was with john gardner, listening, sometimes attentively, sometimes not, to chelsea's parents. >> you dismantled a family life that was built on love, trust and faith. but you did not destroy it.
look at me. why am i not surprised? >> and to amber's. >> no one can appreciate the horror that is my life until they can appreciate the joy that was my amber. >> then watch what happened when that earlier survivor of a gardner attack -- >> every day i lace up my shoes and relive the moments of terror, the other conviction that i was going to deny -- >> watch what happens when she reminds him how she elbowed his nose
>> so they pushed for a new law named for chelsea and signed by the governor last year, imposing stiffer sentences for sex offenders, increased terms of parole, and improved monitoring and assessment of parolees. >> governor schwarzenegger, i thank you for your support and commitment. you've helped us fulfill our dream of doing everything in our power to prevent this tragedy from ever happening to another family again.
>> chelsea should be in college now and amber a high school future farmer. instead, all their parents could do was watch authorities lead the killer away to a life in prison. and try, best they can, to help stop the next one out there somewhere. and that's all for this edition of "dateline" friday. we're back again for "dateline" sunday at 7:00/6:00 central. i'm ann curry. for all of us here at nbc news, good night. >> live, local, late-breaking. this is wbal-tv 11 news tonight. >> it seems in the 11th hour as >> it seems in the 11th hour as everyone was